Thursday, July 27, 2017

Prosecution on Defense

Film: Boomerang!
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Every now and then, you get a movie that you almost can’t explain. We tend to expect certain things from movies and from certain genres, but there are a few out there that are just out there in terms of genre expectations. Boomerang! is that sort of a movie. This is clearly film noir at least in tone, but it’s so strange and so off from the typical. It feels like a documentary in parts, especially with the voiceover, and while it is noir-ish, it ends with a long courtroom scene that is just a revealing of evidence.

We start with a murder, which is really how a good film noir ought to start. In this case, the victim is Father Lambert, a kind, mild-mannered man of the cloth in Bridgeport, CT. The killing happens at night, but on an occupied street directly under a streetlight. Despite this, the witnesses see only a man in a dark coat and a light-colored fedora fleeing the scene. Father Lambert is dead on the scene with a bullet in his head. We get a little bit of flashback, showing us the kind of man that Father Lambert was. This includes a confrontation with a local man (Philip Coolidge) who he thinks should have himself committed for some reason. Yes, this is going to be relevant, because we as the audience are going to be led to believe that this man is the killer.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday Horror: Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles

Film: Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Years ago, I had a student write a paper on vampire movies. It was her contention that vampires switched from being monsters to being love interests for teenagers with the release of Interview with the Vampire. It’s probably been a good 20 years since I’d seen this, although I remembered it pretty well. Still, it’s worth a rewatch, and I figured I might as well revisit it. I remembered liking this the first time through and thinking that parts of it were pretty homoerotic. I forgot just how homoerotic it was, though, and I also forgot how much fire there is in this movie.

We start in the present as interviewer Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater) sits down to interview Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt). Louis quickly and openly admits to being a vampire and demonstrates some of his abilities to Daniel before telling his story. We jump back to 1791 New Orleans, where Louis is dealing with the recent death of his wife and child. While Louis isn’t completely suicidal, he’s the next closest thing, actively looking for someone to help him shuffle off his mortal coil. It is in this frame of mind that he meets Lestat (Tom Cruise), a vampire who is only too happy to give Louis the gift of death and then undeath.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Place Before Peyton

Film: Kings Row
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

When I think of movies from the 1940s, I tend to think of film noir and films that did what they could to tweak the Hays Code. I tend to forget that there was still a strong streak of melodrama in those years. I was thoroughly reminded of that with Kings Row, one of the soggiest melodramas you’re likely to run across. In this case, that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. Oh, Kings Row is all about the banks of strings playing intensely whenever something emotional happens, and there’s going to be plenty of extreme events to ratchet up those emotions, but there is a difference between a melodrama that’s just drippy and one that is interesting.

So what makes Kings Row interesting? A couple of things. First, this was the picture that made Ronald Reagan a star. He wasn’t able to capitalize on that because he was drafted around the same time as its release. Some would suggest it’s his best movie. Since he was also in Dark Victory I think that’s a stretch, but it’s almost certainly his best performance and his best role. It’s also a film that has had a unique impact on popular culture. If you listen to the main theme, it sounds vaguely familiar. This is because John Williams used it as his inspiration for the main theme for Star Wars.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Camelot Has Fallen

Film: Jackie
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on various players.

I can’t say that I was overly excited about the prospect of Jackie, a feeling that was intensified the moment Natalie Portman opened her mouth. It’s worth noting that I honestly have no idea what Jackie Kennedy actually sounded like. It’s such an unusual intonation, but it is evidently quite accurate. It’s just so strange, breathy and with words pronounced so oddly that it was difficult to get my mind around initially.

Jackie is, of course, less the story of Jackie Kennedy than it is the story of her experience after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The film does jump in time a bit, although in the main it follows her life in those days after Kennedy was killed in Dallas. The frame of the film’s narrative is an interview she gives to an unnamed journalist (Billy Crudup). Scenes take place that come across more or less as her memories of those days, either being explained to this interviewer or in her own memory as he asks questions. I don’t mean to say that it’s dreamlike, but that it plays something like a flashback.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Father Figure

Film: About a Boy
Format: HBO Go on rockin’ flatscreen.

I still have a large number of movies that I need to watch, but the number is getting smaller and smaller. What this means for me is that availability at any given time is far reduced from what it used to be. I used to have tons of available movies to watch on NetFlix, but that’s no longer the case. What this means is I need to find targets of opportunity when I can. As it happens, I own a copy of About a Boy, but scrolled past it tonight, and didn’t have a host of other options. Nothing against the film; it’s just not what I was in the mood for, but I persevered.

Actually, it’s kind of a sweet movie. Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) lives the most carefree life that can be imagined. His father, years before, wrote a Christmas song that turned out to be incredibly popular, and Will has more or less lived off his father’s royalties that he has inherited. He has no job because he’s never needed one. What he’s really interested in is women, and even then he’s interested for just a few months before wanting to move on. Through the auspices of some friends, he’s set up on a blind date with a woman who turns out to be a single mom.